A Broken Heart

Here in SVG, I lead a fairly full life. Between my friends and my family, my work and my business. I am quite busy. So, when I lost someone I cared very deeply for, I did not fall into the depression that I thought I would.  I am in the process of bouncing back.  My family pays a very large role.

 

I have a heavily multiethnic background. I am a mutt. A really mixed individual.  Some of my cousins are of Arab heritage; I spend a lot of time with them. They smoke the water pipe with a lovely smelling tobacco (it smells like apples) sometimes, and they often patronize a ‘shisha’ bar where the environment is very Arab; large soft cushions on the floor, lots of carpets, good friends, and a delightful mix of music from not just the Caribbean, but pretty much all over the world. So, there are distractions that allow you to forget yourself for a short while so you can be the person you were previously.

 

On other occasions I can go and visit the relatives of East Indian heritage in the north of the island. Simply to catch up with them, to see how their children have grown, to hear what ridiculous thing someone did recently, and be able to poke fun at them right there, does lot to erase your own folly, or present situation from your heart. The fact that this side of the family is also the side that drinks copious amounts of rum is also quite a help, as you can imagine.

 

Then I can go and help to build costumes at the Mas tent, to contribute to the development of Vincentian culture. And the wonderful thing about it is that the mas men are so happy for the extra pair hands, and you meet such wonderful, and interesting characters in the tent. You actually get a second family if you allow it. This is how we are able to sustain the art, by allowing the youth to come into the tent so that the skills can be transferred to the next generation.

 

I suppose what I am trying to tell you, is that St. Vincent has quite a few distractions that will allow you to forget what ails you, regardless of what it is.  You don’t have to have friends or family here to enjoy yourself. Vincentians are a really friendly lot, and are quick to adopt you; to invite you out, ask you to come to diner – very hospitable. But if you want to be left alone, you will be also. If you need the noise to lose yourself in, we have that. If you need the quiet and solace of a beach with a good book, we have that. If you need to meet new and interesting people, we have that. And we have thirty-two islands for you to play in. Epic, right?

EASTER IN SVG

Easter is a magical time in the Caribbean, when you surround yourself with family, food, church, sun, regattas, swimsuits and good friends who may or may not have drinks with them. These same friends will go through the list just mentioned, but not necessarily in the same order.

Since St. Vincent and the Grenadines is an archipelago, we have a lot of islands to choose from when we have long breaks. We have already introduced them but here is a refresher on the bigger ones:

Bequia

-Mustique

-Union Island

-Canouan

-Mayreau

The largest of these is Bequia, and believe me they put on a really good shin-dig here! They host a regatta that yachts across the Caribbean participate in, they host Fishermans’ Day competitions for the most capable fisherman and crew, and subsequent to that they host parties where all and sundry are invited to listen to good music and eat fish and the  other bounties of the sea.

Let us not forget that Easter is a sad time that remembers the Crucifixion and thus the food prepared is designed to be redolent of the bitterness and sadness of the day. Most people eat only fish and bitter vegetables. Most Vincentians observe this tradition.

But after the period of mourning, let the good times roll, because Easter Sunday will change the mood. The Lord has defied death, and we must rejoice, and believe me, we do. After church is over, after having cried and cried previously on Good Friday, you cast off your black garments and replace them with robes of happiness. In some cases it is a swimsuit of happiness.

In SVG the Easter weekend is a delightful four days long, and while this is a nightmare for the Private Sector to lose two days of work, it is greatly appreciated none-the-less. The ferries to Bequia (this island is the choice of most Vincentians) operate practically non-stop to accommodate the exodus from the mainland. Actually, to be still on the mainland for Easter is considered a sacrilege. The in-crowd is cavorting in the Grenadines, and if you are not there, then sadly, you really are missing out.

I have gone to Easter in the Grenadines and it is a truly, lovely, lovely time. And not just on Bequia either; I have been to Easter on some of the other islands as well. There is elegant Mustique, with the annual picnic to Macaroni Beach, and they host the Easter Bonnet Parade where creativity is given free reign, after that for the kiddies there is the Easter Egg Hunt. The prize for the most eggs is a two foot tall solid chocolate rabbit. It may actually be smaller, but you know to children everything looks large! But it really was a BIG bunny.

The night life has something to say as well in Bequia at Easter. Well-known bands are brought in from the region and some home grown artistes make their appearances as well. And imagine the performances being done under a clear, star-filled, moonlit night with the sound of the Caribbean Sea in one ear and the excited laughter of those dear to you in the next.

Have a fabulous Easter All!

The Importance of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign

“Do Not Disturb”

This means ‘I just want to be left alone’. There is no other way to interpret these three words. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the few places left where you can actually have an entire strip of beach to yourself. Not just the beaches though, there are entire islands where you can enjoy blessed solitude. If you really want to be around people you only have to look for a soccer match or a watering hole to find them.

Please have a little look at the list of places  where blissful solitude is not a dream, but a complete, and achievable reality:

  1. Young Island Resort, St. Vincent ->http://www.youngisland.com/
  2. Moonhole, Bequia, Grenadines ->http://www.moonhole.com/
  3. Mustique, Grenadines ->http://www.mustique-island.com/
  4. Tobago Keys, Grenadines ->http://tobagocays.org/
  5. Palm Island Resort, Grenadines ->http://www.palmislandresortgrenadines.com/
  6. Petit St. Vincent Resort, Grenadines -> http://www.petitstvincent.com/
  7. Friendship Bay, Bequia, Grenadines -> http://www.bequiatourism.com/hotels.htm
  8. Union Island, Grenadines
  9. Botanical gardens, St. Vincent -> http://discoversvg.com/index.php/es/whattodo/eco-adventures/tropicalgardens
  10. La Soufriere, Volcano, St. Vincent -> http://discoversvg.com/index.php/es/whattodo/eco-adventures/tropicalgardens

Some of these locations have websites, and others unfortunately do not. But I have tried to  provide you with this information so that you can have a look around if your heart desires. Happy browsing!

My Magnetic Addiction to Vincy Food

My life in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one where I try very, very hard not to gain weight. Everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE I look, Vincentian food is tempting me. If it is not succulent fried chicken, or yummy brown stewed fish, it is one of my favourites, ‘tri-tri’. I went to my very good friend’s birthday celebration recently, and they served tritri cakes.  Remember tri-tri? I described it to you once.

Tri-tri is this amazing little fish that makes a trip on moonlit nights from the sea to the point where the fresh water meets the salt water. Then the little tri-tris swim up the river into man-made road-blocks designed to trap them. When they are caught and get to the local markets, thousands of Vincentian grandmothers make batters with flour, spices and tons of lovely West Indian flavour, then they spoon them into shallow oil or deep oil (it depends on  what shape they want) until they are all golden and quite honestly yummy.  They can come in little balls or wide fritters, and be served with or without a spicy or peppery dip.

 

Yes, tri-tri is one of my favourite things, and the actual catching of this little delicacy has become a popular tourist attraction at one of the resorts that has a river running through it. On moonlit nights people gather on the sides of the river and contentedly watch the catching of the tri-tri and then at some point in the future they get to sample them!

To dispel the effects of yummy Vincentian food, I do one of several things:

  1. I do Pilates and
  2. Cardio and
  3. Boxing and
  4. Yoga and then
  5. Last, but certainly no least, I play squash

I mention these things because I want you to know what St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a modern country and that while small, all the amenities are here. So, please don’t be concerned about eating too much tasty West Indian food. Come over and partake; we are a healthy society with lots of safe, smooth roads and hills to challenge you.

 

 

 

10 Must-eat Vincy Foods

If you plan to visit good ol’ Vincy, as soon as you land at E.T. Joshua Airport, ask a local where to find one (or all) of these victuals for sustenance before starting your adventure.  If you’re a Vincy, well, you already know.

  1. Roasted Breadfruit and Fried Jackfish:  You just can’t say no. It’s the National Dish…and it is delicious!
  2. Callaloo Soup:  Different callaloo from the Jamaican variety (and to die for in a soup. There are as many variations as there are cooks who prepare it. It’s delicious with crab, conch, beef, chicken and with a plethora of local vegetables.
  3. Patties:  Again, different from the Jamaican variety that’s garnered international fame. Vincentian Patties are essentially little, delicate pies filled with ground meat. One of my absolute favourites!
  4. Souse:  Now, souse is traditionally made with pig’s feet but I have also had a delicious version with conch. Yum! Souse is the chosen meat in a spicy, limey sauce. It can be served hot or chilled or anywhere in between with roasted breadfruit.
  5. Blackfish:  I’ve been all over the Caribbean and I’ve not seen this anywhere else. It’s very unique to St. Vincent. Blackfish is actually pilot whale and in St. Vincent it’s prepared in a similar fashion to saltfish (traditionally salted cod). It’s torn into small pieces and sautéed with tomatoes, onions, garlic, pepper and other spices.
  6. Shark and Bakes:  Shark seasoned and fried to a wonderful crisp and served with proper Vincy bakes (fried bits of yeasty dough), crispy on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside.
  7. Peleau:  This is like the Vincentian version of paella – a delectable one-pot dish with rice, meat (could be beef, could be chicken), and sometimes peas. It seems basic enough but the addition of browned sugar makes this dish’s flavor one-of-a-kind.
  8. Tri tri cakes:  Little fritters made with tri tri, teeny tiny little river fish seasoned to exquisite gastronomic perfection.
  9. Goat water:  Yes. It sounds a bit manky, but it is delicious. It’s not just water with bits of goat in it (Ew!) as the name might suggest. Instead expect a super flavourful, spicy soup with ground provisions, green bananas and of course goat.
  10. Bread!:  Yes, a shocker. But Vincentians have a special relationship with bread. They’re like bread wizards, bread aficionados. Try any type. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much better it is than the stale one that sits on the supermarket shelf for days that you normally buy.

Rumscapade in SVG

Rum spends a lot of time following me around. There is this particular glass of white rum that was stalking me! I tried so hard to get away one particular weekend.
It started in Wallilabou, right above the site where ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was filmed. I went with some cronies to the Wallilabou Falls. This is a small waterfall surrounded by heavy, dark coloured rocks, and set amongst lush gardens. If you are a lover of nature, this place will certainly soothe your soul. Anyway, I digress. I rolled in with some friends, and as soon as we arrived, there were some people we recognized instantly. They invited us to sit with them. There is a bar and a seating area at the falls, and there is seating strategically placed all over the falls/park area. We drank white rum and coke, and spent a pleasant time there discussing various things in this lush setting. It began to get dark and we needed to leave, and that is when I made my fatal mistake. I refused the glass of white rum. What an unforgivable faux pas! Thereafter, the rum stalked me.
I went to ‘The Grill’ in Villa the next night to eat the best jerk pork and festival in SVG, and to my horror, the glass of white rum and coke appeared! The waitress claimed that is was with the complements of the group at the bar, but I knew who it was! It was the drink I had refused the day before, half way across the island in Wallilabou!
All I was trying to do was make it back home sober, not staggering around. That’s all! I made my excuses to my party and took off! I was headed to Byera for some fried chicken up on the windward side of the island. Since I had been denied jerk, I would have fried! I got in my little gun-metal-grey car, and I drove and drove-as if the hounds of hell were chasing me. When I arrived in Byera, I threw my vehicle in park, yanked up the hand brake and shot into the little bar.

Now, this run-emporium, while it may not be the most elegant establishment in SVG, has its own charm and its own unique ambience. It is always welcoming, always comforting and the food is always fresh and tasty. I was welcomed as the regular I was. My back was clapped repeatedly, I was offered food immediately; I was home! I sat on a tall stool and sipped a ‘Hairoun Mauby’ soda, and relaxed. There was no way the rum would find me here! Finally, I had outrun it.
I began to get complacent when the young people came to dance. They danced to calypso and soca; it reminded me of Carnival. No sooner had I slipped into this fantastic fantasy induced by companionship and song, than the rum appeared. It was on the house! The owner had provided a round. My fried chicken had the audacity to arrive at the same time. My eyes shifted between them both.
I went outside. I needed to breathe. Why?!Why was this glass of white rum following me like this? It was unforgivable!
I had had enough! I ran back inside and promptly downed the glass. So be it! I embraced the warm wonderful sensation, burning down my throat. I watched the dancers and got back home feeling happy at 3am. But, I was content, for what is a moonlit night in the Caribbean without a glass of rum?

Kingstown – After Dark

Ok, so that sounds kind of sinister but believe me it’s not. Kingstown isn’t the kind of town where the freaks come out at night. In fact, it’s pretty much fast asleep at that hour. But the night owls and all around good-time seekers know exactly where to go once the sun has bid us adieu for the night.

FLOW

Flow is a lounge and wine bar which is the perfect place for bridging that weird, don’t-know-what-to-do time gap between work ending and club hours. The space is tastefully and elegantly decorated and holds true to the word “lounge”. The room is scattered with the most (maybe too) comfy, plush chairs imaginable, just begging you to curl up with a glass of wine and some friends to chat. The ambiance is perfectly in sync, with gentle jazz a-wafting and warm ochre light a-shining. The menus aren’t bad either with a cornucopia of wines, ales and brews from all over the world.

 

HERITAGE SQUARE

Ok. Yes. We’ve mentioned Heritage Square before in our post, “Kingstown – A Day Trip”. I know. But what holds true for the day time holds even better in the night time. Heritage Square is normally so “ram jam” on a Friday evening, there’s barely space to walk. This is THE after-work lyme. The food trucks become mini bars and many a Friday night, you could find enormous sound systems set up to blast the sweetest soca and most “sell-off” dancehall music. This is the best bet for people who enjoy more down-to-earth, “rootsy” fun, out in the open and under the stars.

 

CLUB 28

Now, Club 28 (formerly Rush) is an excellent lyme and I’ll tell you why.  Like most clubs, it has a lounge downstairs. However, unlike most lounges, Club 28’s can get as wild as (and on occasion wilder than) the club upstairs.

So, right after work, hit 28’s lounge. It is amazing and my personal fave spot. The lounge is like a mix of, well, a lounge, and a hip, cool, energetic bar.  Confused? Let me explain. Early in the evening, it’s definitely more chill and laid-back. You come in after work, you kick back, you sip a glass of wine (or an Amaretto Sour *wink wink*), have a chat with your friends  and have some yummy snacks from the menu. Then, as the night progresses, the energy picks up and, well, makes you not want to bother to head upstairs…yeah…that fun.

If you must get on a dance floor and dance all night in a sweaty, heady frenzy, then just head up the flight of stairs and there in all its laser-light glory is the dance floor complete with hot DJ. Get down Saturday night!

 

SHARK BAR

Shark bar is the proper sports bar in SVG, complete with pool tables and flat screens for whichever game is must-see at the time.  What’s interesting about Shark too is the addition of a “dance” space. Yes, the clientele can shake a leg there but, frankly, that’s not what comes to my mind…poles and a stage. That’s all I’m saying.

Poles and stage aside, Shark Bar is usually a good time. In fact, I’m heading there tonight…in a few actually…have to get ready. Hasta!

Always a deck chair waiting for you…

Can I just tell you how every colour of the rainbow is available in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? That every imaginable shade of blue will follow you forever, as you take sun filled walk after walk on the most unbelievable cobalt and azure beaches in creation?

I went to the Grenadine island of Bequia last weekend. Please look it up, ‘Google’ it. It will be a rewarding experience, I assure you. Now, I went there to meet a friend from Canada, and she was only too happy to be frolicking on our golden, sun-kissed shores at this time of year being from North America. I have a picture showing her and my cousins feet as they longed on the beach and sipped a beastly cold ‘Hairoun’ lager on Lower Bay.

I promise you that this place loosens your tongue and lowers the natural inclination to filter information. Now, you may say to yourself, “Self, this is not a good thing. We have way too many secrets!” But, I would beg to differ. I believe, rather profoundly, that to release one’s inhibitions is a thing of beauty, since it is a purer, truer you who is being presented, this allows you make superior connections with others.

Such an attitude, a mindset is appreciated on lovely Bequia, where the locals tend to be very frank and matter of fact in their speech and dealings. Bequia is only nine miles away from mainland St. Vincent. This translates to about an hour by regular ferry and about fifteen minutes by fast ferry. The journey is pleasant and allows for introspection, and tons of fabulous photographs.

One of my favourite things to do on Bequia, and this may sound kind of eighteenth century to some rum connoisseurs is to have tea at ‘Gingerbread’. This is a fabulous place in Port Elizabeth, Bequia to the right and a short five-minute walk from the wharf. I tell you these people make the most glorious ginger and shortbread cookies in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that is saying a lot since there are thirty-two islands!

In Bequia, the beaches will never be crowded. It is still the undiscovered paradise. There will always be privacy to steal a kiss or two, or three at sunset as you sit and watch the sun go down with your tea and glorious cookies. There are other delights to tempt you though. My cousin, who is completely lactose intolerant, always has to have the nutmeg ice cream. If I have something cold it’s usually the mango yogurt. The cold treats are made fresh; the mangoes always smell as though they came off the tree that morning! And they probably did! The ladies who make the cookies and the cold treats are not allowed to go on vacation, get sick or die! I have spoken. A trip is not a trip to Bequia if these things are not in place; it is part of the ritual of the visit, or it would feel incomplete.

There is always a deck chair waiting for you in Bequia, always a cold lager to welcome you out of the noonday sun. I took pictures and posted them here so that you can see, it’s the gospel truth. So, come down! Bring your swimsuit and your appetite for colour and the novelty of the new – come enjoy St. Vincent and the Grenadines with us!

Kingstown – A Day Trip!

A walk through Kingstown (or just “town” as locals refer to it) during the day can be terribly difficult sometimes.  For a person in town on a mission, Kingstown can provide many a distraction.
The first and most obvious distraction is the many stores in Kingstown. While there may not be any H&M, Marks and Spencer, or Gap outlets, if one knows where to look, one can end up leaving town with a few hundreds of dollars less. A little boutique called, Amnejaa is the one store I know I can get the perfect dress for an event in a pinch and Elegance and Fragrances are other staple stores for any Vincentian woman. For makeup and beauty products, there is no store better than Acute Cosmetics. I know I’ve clearly excluded our readers of the more masculine persuasion, but the Trend provides top-notch boy and girl-friendly shopping. A trip there can get you a great pair of designer (as in Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana) sunglasses, or makeup from their exclusive L’Oreal counter.
The second distraction is the vendors along every major walkway in Kingstown.  From handmade jewelry using indigenous materials to traditional Vincentian snacks and sweets, the offerings make it very hard to focus on why you came into town in the first place.  The quality of many of the products easily rival that of the craft boutiques but for half the price!
Distraction number three: Heritage Square. From morning until night, Heritage Square is full of energy.  With several food-vending trucks, including the famous Richie’s and Mac’s Snack Shack, I don’t think there is ever a time that a throng of people aren’t milling about.  Whether it’s a weekday or a Saturday night, there is always a group of good-vibed Vincentians chilling and having a drink (yeah, even on weekdays) at Heritage Square. Let the good times roll!
Other places to check out: Kingstown Market (for fresh fruit and veggies and excellent quality organic coconut oil – great for hair and skin), The Bounty Restaurant (delicious Vincentian patties and local juices and the sweetest café-style ambiance) and the Cruise-Ship Terminal (boutiques and restaurants catering specially to tourists visiting our beautiful island).
Now get off your butt and go for a walk through town! There’s loads more to see than I could fit into this one post. Happy Trekking!

Rumbo, Rumbo……wherefore art thou, Rumbo?!

Rumbo, Rumbo……wherefore art thou, Rumbo[1]?

It is a little known fact that there are over 3000 rum-emporiums in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. On any given day should you desire the comforting embrace of an auburn to red rum you can do so, in any of these fine establishments, known locally as ‘rum shops’.  Should you crave the affections of an award winning, named after a fictional film pirate rum, it is easy to locate. And lastly, should you need a jet fuel injection from an over-proof, can’t take it on the plane with you, farmers suffering from withdrawal symptoms  on the off-chance it is absent from the shelves, white rum,  then come to my arms Brother, welcome home, for you have found kindred spirits.

The paradise I live in, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, SVG to those in the know, is a truly magical place with stunning views, an amazingly varied terrain and extremely friendly and trusting people. Remember ‘Star Trek’, when they used the term ‘the
undiscovered country’? Well, they were speaking about us. Kidding! But, honestly, the term really does apply. We are not a Barbados that has all the amenities of a tiny England or a small USA. No, we still retain the old world charm that is truly, intrinsically West Indian. Our main town Kingstown still has that slightly colonial feel. I am not saying that if Chris Columbus came back from the dead tomorrow he would know where everything is still! That is not what I am saying. What I am saying, is that he would recognize the energy and the vibe. We are a relaxed group, Vincentians. Not a whole lot bothers us. Some attribute this to our ability to weather exogenous shocks, I attribute it to our faith in rum. Rum can make all things seem bearable.

Okay! Now Brother, for that tour of all the major Rum Emporiums of note. We will start in jolly old Kingstown and head north to Georgetown. I must warn you that SVG is an
archipelago of 32 islands, 33 if you count the man made one in Union Island, where the single resident turned it into a bar to serve what? Yes, of course, what else – rum!

Kingstown has numerous restaurants etc. that can serve you any cocktail your little heart desires. But, it is also packed with small establishments where you can buy a ‘petit’ of rum that culture dictates you drink straight. No fluffy, frou-frou cocktail for you, Brother! Put some more hair on that chest! Never let it be said that they found any Brother of mine under the table! There is a fine emporium just to the right of the Royal SVG Police HQ, where I am sure we can make a friend. Come!

Our next town is Calliaqua.  Can you stand up, Brother? This is a fishing community that hosts many a rum emporium.  It also hosts its own Carnival. Everyone knows that rum must be present at Carnival! There is no other way to be awake for four days straight without rum to keep your company through the night. I think we should stay here in Calliaqua to sample the local delights of Fish Fry-Day, and chase that with some rum. Tell your friends not to worry. We will be with them again licketty-split, to regale
them with our adventures!


[1] Rumbo: An extreme connoisseur of rum and rum products. The origin is Creole and
is the West Indian version of ‘Wino’.